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Charting the Saints Offensive Line versus the Steelers

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How bad was the Saints offensive line against the Steelers?

NFL: Preaseason-Pittsburgh Steelers at New Orleans Saints Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

I’ve been charting the New Orleans Saints offensive and defensive lines throughout the preseason, which has brought some troubling information to light: the guys charged with keeping Drew Brees safe this year are not very good at it.

The team gambled on their in-house talent – namely young linemen Andrus Peat, Senio Kelemete, and Tim Lelito – being able to fill in at the two guard spots and play at a serviceable level.

That hasn’t happened. Between getting outbid on J.R. Sweezy and Alex Boone and seeing Germain Ifedi and Joshua Garnett drafted ahead of them, the Saints neglected to bring in any new guards of significance. So now they’re in a bad spot.

They could opt to trade for a veteran like Dallas Cowboys guard Ronald Leary, as was reported earlier this offseason. The Saints may look at Geoff Schwartz, who was solid for the Detroit Lions this summer but outplayed by younger options on the roster.

They already signed former Oakland Raiders lineman Khalif Barnes, who is 34 years old and only really known for his frequent false starts (he has recorded 35 false start penalties in 137 appearances). I’m not counting on him to be a factor.

The future of the Saints’ offensive line is up in the air, and we should be worried. With that in mind, let’s dig into this week’s results.

Best Success Rate: Right guard Landon Turner (rookie from North Carolina) paved the way for the third team offensive line, recording an awesome 75 percent success rate on 19 snaps. He looks much more comfortable playing at NFL speed and has improved his footwork. He isn’t taking as many false steps and is getting a more consistent punch. Turner still doesn’t have very impressive lateral agility, but I really like seeing him improve from one week to the next. Hopefully he can get some snaps with the second team offense this week against the Baltimore Ravens. I’d like to see what he can do against stouter competition.

Worst Success Rate: Left tackle Terron Armstead had a very awkward-looking start to the game and was pulled after only 7 snaps (the starters saw 36 plays). He was nursing some kind of injury picked up during last week’s practices, but it hasn’t been disclosed and isn’t believed to be serious. I wouldn’t read too much into Armstead’s poor outing against the Pittsburgh Steelers, but definitely keep an eye on how often he practices ahead of the season kickoff against the Oakland Raiders.

Best Loss Rate: Left guard John Fullington (third-year undrafted free agent) played at a solid level on the third unit, only losing once on 14 snaps. Fullington moved to left tackle for a few plays on the third team line and finished the game there on the fourth string unit. He lost twice at left tackle on a total of 13 plays. The problem with Fullington is that he doesn’t win many reps, recording only five wins on his combined 27 snaps.

Worst Loss Rate: Terron Armstead recorded the worst loss rate of the game (57.1 percent), which is no surprise in light of his injury. After Armstead the lineman with the worst loss rates was Cyril Lemon (22.2 percent), who has since been released. Left guard Tim Lelito rounded out the bottom three at 21.9 percent, which is not what you want to see out of a player expected to start for the upcoming season. The Saints are running out of time to find a replacement for the biggest hole on their starting unit.

Senio Kelemete is the leading candidate to stand in when Lelito falls short at left guard. Kelemete had a great game against the Steelers, logging his best success rate of the preseason (73.1 percent). We should temper expectations for Kelemete, however, because he was a liability last week (57.9 percent) and in the preseason opener (63.8 percent). Fans shouldn’t get their hopes up until Kelemete puts a consistent performance together.

Zach Strief had another solid game. He had one of the highest snap counts of the game (36), playing almost entirely against the Steelers’ starting unit, and won twice as often (10) as he lost (5). He routinely executed his responsibilities and didn’t have many negative plays. Strief has a bad rep in the fanbase because when he loses, it’s in spectacular fashion: getting thrown aside to eat turf and seeing Drew Brees crumpled like tin-foil. Fortunately, Strief doesn’t lose very often, and shouldn’t catch as much flak as gets sent at him.